You may have noticed that over the last decade or so Fender has released
some cool little tube amp designs, like the ever popular straight-up tube amps the
Blues Junior and the Pro Junior as well as the tube hybrid Super Champ XD and
X2. All of these amps have a club
friendly 15-20 watts through either a pair of EL84’s (The Blues and Pro Jr.) or
6V6’s (the Super Champs). This is the
exquisite power section of the famous AC-15 or Deluxe Reverb … a VERY good
platform on which to build a club-sized tube amp, and on their own these little
amps sound quite good, but to heck with good … we want GREAT, right?
So, what keeps these amps from sounding truly great?
Is it their PC board construction, pre-amp
stage, or poor component selection? No;
it’s the cabinets and speakers. All of
these otherwise excellent combos suffer from the same malady: they have cheap
speakers crammed into cheap, too-small cabinets. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a recipe for
mediocracy at best. The good news is
that there IS a fix! Let’s talk about
Every one of these is a GREAT sounding design, but it’s like having a great
engine in a Yugo(click on the word if you don’t know what a Yugois). The tiny cabinets Fender crams
these things into are made of particle board so heavy that you would swear it’s part
lead; there is absolutely no room for the speaker to breathe, and no cabinet
resonance at all. The end result: a box
that sounds … well … boxy! And so, I
will present you with two great alternatives that I personally am intimately
familiar with; both of these options will take your little amp from “meh” to “YEA”!
First, I present the “Pro Senior”:
I owned a Pro Junior for a little while … and “meh” was a perfect way to
describe it, I loved that cute LITTLE cabinet, and even made a 3/8” lightweight
baffle and put a 12” speaker in it … but the fact is, that dense little cabinet
just physically can’t sound great. But
wait! Enter the 2x10” “Pro Senior”; this
amp is owned by my buddy and HEAVY gigging player Brad
Sample, and it’s been on hundreds of stages of all sizes all over the
country. The chassis is a plain old
un-modified Pro Junior, but the cabinet is a healthy sized 2x10 made by JD Newell from Grade A knot-Free pine and
has a lightweight floating baffle for 2 10” speakers. Brad used the stock very bright Fender
speaker and added the VERY bottom-heavy hemp-cone Eminence Lil Buddy, and the
result is a GREAT sounding simple volume & Tone tube amp that can easily
keep up with a heavy hitting drummer!
Awesome, right? (BTW: a WGS G10C and an ET10 would be the ULTIMATE
speaker combo in this cabinet).
Now, I present the truly “SUPER” Super Champ XD:
As you all might remember, I LOVE my little Vibro-Champ XD for
after-the-family-goes-to-bed living room playing. So, I started looking into its big brother,
the Super Champ XD as a club-gig amp.
Problem was, they just didn’t sound that great … too boxy … plus, not
nearly enough clean volume to keep up with a live drummer. So, when I spotted this ultra-cool Super
Champ XD in a high-quality tweed covered 1x12 made by The
Musician’s Hardware Store … I just HAD to own it! As you might expect, I did an exhaustive bunch
of speaker tests, and Ultimately chose a Reaper
HP as the flat-out winner for this amp, it retains all the Fender sparkle
and chime, plus adds a bunch of tight, solid bottom (I like my bottom tight and
solid) … and it’s efficiency coupled with the quality lightweight and resonant
cabinet means that this lil gal can EASILY keep up with a slammin’ live
drummer. Oh, and best of all for those
of us who care about our backs, because the new cabinet is so much lighter than
the original particle board cab, the final amp is only 2-pounds heavier than a
stock Super Champ XD … even with the heavy-magnet Reaper. Yea BABY!
Now, if ya wanta go whole-hog, contact my buddy Jimi Lundin and have him whip you up a one-of-a-kind cab for your lil gal. Jim is quite an artist and makes my cabs.
So, maybe you have some OTHER tiny tube amp that suffers from the same combo
of a cheap speaker inside a too-small box.
Fear not! Folks like Jimi, JD Newell and The
Musician’s Hardware Store can make a superior quality cabinet for most any
amp out there … oh, and of course WGS will always provide the best speaker at
an unbelievable price. Feel better? Yep, I thought so :-)